BY IZZY WIGHTMAN
The opening of a new dialysis centre has marked the start of better care for more patients needing kidney treatment.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust launched the new facility in its clinic based at University Hospital, Lewisham.
It has replaced the smaller unit that recently closed at Forest Hill and will shave hours off patient travelling time.
The collaboration with specialist providers of kidney dialysis, Diaverum UK, comes after the Trust celebrated 50 years of providing life-saving kidney operations – including 7,600 transplants – and pioneering surgery last month.
Siobhan Morris, 44, had her life transformed after she was one of the first patients to receive a robot-assisted kidney transplant in the UK at Guy’s Hospital in 2016.
Ms Morris said: “I had acute renal failure because of an extremely rare auto-immune disease that shut down my kidneys.”
She had to visit hospital three times a week for more than two years for haemodialysis, a process which helps purify the blood but requires regular visits.
Ms Morris said: “You are on the machines for three-and-a-half hours each time and afterwards feel very tired. It’s very draining.”
She had her first transplant from her mum in 2007 which lasted nine years before her body rejected it.
After a short spell back on dialysis, she received a kidney donated by her brother using robot-assisted keyhole surgery.
“That was fabulous,” she said. “When I had my first transplant the pain was excruciating the next day. I could not move and could not go to the bathroom for three or four days. I was black and blue.
“With the robot-assisted operation, I came back from surgery on the Sunday night and was walking well the next day. It was amazing.”
The opening of the Lewisham centre continues the Trust’s improving treatment and means patients no longer have to take a round-trip to Guy’s Hospital which took some up to eight hours.
It features 20 dialysis stations (five more than the Forest Hill centre) and two rooms dedicated to kidney dialysis.
This means up to 120 patients can be treated on three shifts – morning, afternoon and evening – during one day. Staff hope the modern and spacious room will provide a more comfortable environment for patients.
Lee Bellew, from Lewisham, was one of the first patients to receive dialysis at the new centre and said: “My first kidney failed when I was four, the second when I was 10, so I’ve been having dialysis for about 30 years.
“This new unit is perfect, very open and spacious, with more room between dialysis stations. “I come three times a week for four hours at a time, so it’s important that it’s comfortable.
It’s the same staff as the old Forest Hill unit, and they’re all brilliant. “The patients from the old unit were consulted on the design of the new unit and we asked for it to be on the ground floor, to be more spacious and to be decorated in neutral colours, and we’ve got all of those things.
“I feel very tired straight after dialysis but the next day I’ll be in the park having a workout. It’s a way of life for me.”
The unit is staffed by the same team and operates the same opening hours as the Forest Hill centre, from 7am to 11.30pm, Monday to Saturday.
Ros Tibbles, service improvement nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “We’re delighted to offer this new clinic to patients.
With 20 dialysis stations instead of the 15 we had at the Forest Hill centre, we can dialyse many more patients each week.
“The environment at the new centre is much more pleasant for patients and will bring vast improvements to comfort and privacy.
This is especially important for this group of patients who require dialysis three times a week, for four to five hours at a time.
“We are committed to improving patient care and experience and we are confident that the new dialysis centre will make a big difference to our patients.”